The word “Christmas” is from two words, “Christ” and “mass.” The word “Christmas” is not found in the Bible. The “celebration” of “Christmas” is not given in the Bible; therefore, we cannot know how to celebrate this as the birth of Jesus. Had God wanted us to celebrate His Son’s birthday, he would have told us when, where, and how it was to be done. Since He has not, it should not be hard to understand that it is not a Holy Day commanded by God and should not, therefore, be observed by New Testament Christians. It was not observed in the early church of Christ; it was not commanded by the Lord (Matt. 28:19-20); it was never instructed by the apostles, who were guided into all Truth by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13). McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia (Vol. II, p. 276) states, “The exact year of his birth is not agreed on by chronologers, but it was about the four thousandth year of the world; nor can the precise season of the year, the month, and the day in which he was born be ascertained . . . The Egyptians placed it in JANUARY; Wagenseil in FEBRUARY; Bochart in MARCH; some, mentioned by Clement of Alexandria, in APRIL; others, in MAY; Epipohanius speaks of some who placed it in June, and others, who supposed it to have been in JULY; Wagenseil, who was not sure of February, fixed it probably in AUGUST; Lightfoot on the 15th of SEPTEMBER; Scaliger, Casubon, and Calvisius in OCTOBER; others in NOVEMBER; and the Latin Church in DECEMBER.” This diversity of views may seem strange to some, but it is the reason for the confusion in religion in general! Too many are following their human reasoning. Too many simply refuse to follow the Bible (II Tim. 3:16- 17; Matt. 28:20; Col. 3:17). Christians have no more authority to observe Christmas as a religious holy day than to use hot dogs on the Lord’s table or mechanical instrumental music in New Testament worship (I Cor. 11:23-29; Eph. 5:19). On the other hand, Christians can enjoy national holidays, but not as HOLY DAYS. The gathering of families, the serving of meals, and the giving of gifts is not wrong on this day any more than any other. The English language is a living language, which is constantly changing. For example, the days of the week used to carry a pagan or religious significance, which they do not carry today. “Sun-day” does not carry a religious meaning to us today as it once did, along with all names of the days of the week. To use the word Christmas in reference to a national holiday today does not connote the celebrating of the Lord’s birthday nor have the same significance as in its beginning usage. It is not wrong, therefore, to use the term in speaking about a national holiday.
My mother and I had recently experienced a small but significant breakthrough in our relationship after 11 years of dissent and contempt.
Throughout my entire childhood, I had always been on Mom’s team. Dad was seen as the enemy. Although Mom first recruited me to her side as a playful gesture, she eventually sought me as her actual teammate during her fights with Dad.
But Mom was also on my team. That meant that I got to have everything I wanted: scooters, bikes, expensive food, and phone-after-phone-after-phone. Even when Dad passed away and my relationship with Mom turned sour, her giving and sacrifice never ceased. In fact, it doubled and tripled—especially after a bad fight. I don’t think I ever heard her say the word, “No,” even when she was deeply unhappy about something. This was the usual pattern: I’d ask for something superficial (whether it’s new clothes or going to the mall), she would make a face of disapproval, grab her keys, and drive recklessly to wherever I wanted to go to express her disapproval. But she wouldn’t say, “No.” She thought that having no personal boundaries meant being sacrificial and loving.
I learned later on that her definition of love meant giving ceaselessly, even out of bitterness. She allowed other people to invade her boundaries because she feared that communicating her needs would make people love her less. She loved me, but her motivation wasn’t love. It was fear. She grew up thinking that her worth rested firmly in the hands of others—not herself and certainly not God. As a result, she often felt out of control and had frequent breakdowns because she didn’t understand her own self-worth and couldn’t protect her own limits.
Pretty soon after my dad passed away, Mom labeled me as, “The disobedient girl your dad warned me about.” I was suddenly no longer on Mom’s team—I was the enemy. Yet, I still got everything I wanted because my mother couldn’t say, “No.” She only threatened to kill me and then kill herself whenever she reached her limit. If this was what I thought of love, no wonder why my self-worth diminished by the time I reached 10th grade!
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him” (1 John 3:1).
I love that John’s letter begins with the reminder of our intrinsic worth as God’s children. I learned this immediately after coming to faith, but I hadn’t internalized it until recently. God had been working on restoring my sense of worth for the longest time. He knew that it was damaged, even though I tried tirelessly to convince myself that my self-worth was fine and I didn’t need any useless reminders.
At that time, I didn’t recognize what was in my ‘well’ of worthiness. My well contained my accomplishments (I was a fresh Berkeley graduate), my handsome and meek boyfriend, my financial freedom, and my seemingly bright and successful future. Since all of those things made me feel worthy, I naturally lost myself when all of it came to a screeching halt. My Berkeley education couldn’t get me a high-paying job, my financial freedom was compromised, my sweet and meek boyfriend became traumatized and defensive, and my future seemed as uncertain as ever. I was so unhappy with life that I thought even God had abandoned me. Well played, life.
When I lost every treasure in my well of worthiness, I slowly became unhinged. My inherited lack of boundaries began to show. I controlled other people but I couldn’t control myself. My anxiety and depression spiraled out of whack, and I landed in the mental hospital for 72 hours on suicide watch. Never did I understand my mom’s anxiety so well until my own self-worth collapsed.
Since then, the Lord had been patiently and sweetly helping me heal by reconstructing my well of worthiness. I slowly surrendered to Him the breakable, temporary things I once held onto so tightly, one by one, as I learned to trust Him. I imagine the process looking something like a little girl handing over to her father her secret stash of treats, one candy at a time, even though she really, really wanted them. Full-blown tantrums included. Still, the treats gave her cavities, so she decided to hand them over to her wise parent albeit reluctantly. What happens when the little girl handed over her last treat?
She didn’t get a broccoli in return. She got a huge hug and a, “I’m so proud of you!” from her father. I’m currently at the hugging stage and it feels amazing. I wouldn’t trade another treat in the world for my heavenly Father—especially when both of us endured so much to get to this point.
I love how patient God is with me. I wasn’t forced to empty out my well, even though I could imagine how frustrating it must’ve been for Him to see me stumble over my own naivety. God pursued me for years before I finally gave up and trusted Him. Similarly, He’s not going to control you like a robot. He will wait patiently until you realize that the things that currently compete for your self-worth aren’t even worthy for that position.
Little by little, God restored Himself to His rightful place in my life. My accomplishments, relationships, success, and future hopes and dreams now pale in comparison to how happy I am to be loved by God. I was tested again yesterday when I felt hurt by someone who was previously at the center of my well of worthiness. Before, I would’ve felt betrayed, enraged, and unworthy, but yesterday, I immediately remembered who was in my well. Surprise: not this person! The only person who belongs in my well of worthiness is God. It doesn’t matter what other people think of me because my self-worth is in what God thinks of me, and I’m pretty sure that He thinks I’m adorable!
That settled it. I felt joy bubbling from within so I took a stroll down Brand Blvd to soak in my newfound source of confidence—my heavenly Father beaming down from above.
So, I want to ask you this today: What is inside your well of worthiness? Is it your ambitions, accomplishments, go-getter attitude, or optimism? Is it your boyfriend, girlfriend, children, parents, friends, or bosses?
All of these relationships and ambitions are inherently good, but when they get dropped into your well of worthiness (either on accident or on purpose), they become the very thing that defines you. And let me tell you something sad: one day, that thing might just disappoint you, and you will be left in pieces because you’ve literally lost the very source of your identity.
No one was designed to give you your identity except for God. Your well is eternal. Nothing in this world can fill it up and make you feel truly fulfilled. Even if you’re happy with what’s in your well right now, it’s not immovable. Life will happen and people will change. Allow God to empty your current well of worthiness and fill it with Himself. Only then will you be able to experience lasting joy and peace even in the midst of trials.
It’s also important to note that there aren’t any layers to our wells. Something is either in or out. There shouldn’t be any room for anyone else, besides God, to occupy this well. The human heart is such that as soon as we allow something to define our sense of worth, it overshadows what God thinks about us and we become paralyzed with the fear of losing our self-worth. Our breakdowns, insecurities, and unhealthy entitlements all result from putting the wrong things in our wells.
If the only thing in your well is God, you can always be sure of your self-worth because His love for you isn’t subjected to circumstances or moods. His love for you is unchanging. You’ll find it easier to empty out your well and surrender it to Him once you discover that He is trustworthy. Can I say a prayer for you? Let’s retreat into a quiet corner, away from all the noise. Take a deep breath. Let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father,
There’s nothing I want more than for us to experience peace, joy, and freedom in your name. Please help us to empty out our wells and fill it up with yourself. Inhabit our identities and give us full confidence in you. Lord, you are so good and you know our needs before we even realize it. Please continue to pursue us all the days of our lives. We want to get to know you more and fall deeper in love with you. Grant us healing and wholeness, in your name! Amen!
This month we will all delay and watch a day our country puts aside as an occasion. It is “Thanksgiving Day.” Hopefully all Americans will interruption to recollect exactly how appreciative they ought to be for the benefits and gifts managed us. It is far fetched that will happen as a result of the chose move in the direction of mainstream humanism our legislature and society has taken.
It hasn’t generally been that way. In 1863, a respectable statesman from Kentucky composed the following Thanksgiving Proclamation. Abraham Lincoln composed:
It is the obligation of countries and of man to claim their reliance upon the overruling energy of God; to admit their wrongdoings and transgressions in humble distress, yet with guaranteed trust that certified atonement will prompt leniency and exonerate; and to perceive the magnificent truth, declared in the Holy Scriptures and demonstrated by all history, that those countries are honored whose God is the Lord.
We realize that by His heavenly law, countries, similar to people, are subjected to punishments and rebukes in this world. May we not evenhandedly expect that the terrible calamity of common war which now devastates the land might be a discipline incurred upon us for our pretentious sins, to the needful end of our national reorganization all in all individuals?
We have been the beneficiaries of the choicest bounties of paradise; we have been saved these numerous years in peace and flourishing; we have developed in numbers, riches and influence as no other country has ever developed.
In any case, we have overlooked God. We have overlooked the thoughtful hand which saved us in peace and increased and improved and reinforced us, and we have vainly envisioned, in the misdirection of our souls, that every one of these endowments were produced by some predominant insight and uprightness of our own. Inebriated with unbroken success, we have turned out to be excessively independent, making it impossible to feel the need of reclaiming and saving effortlessness, excessively pleased, making it impossible to implore the God that made us.
It has appeared to me fit and legitimate that God ought to be gravely, respectfully and appreciatively recognized, as with one heart and one voice, by the entire American individuals. I do hence welcome my kindred residents in all aspects of the United States, and furthermore the individuals who are adrift and the individuals who are visiting in remote grounds, to separate and watch the last Thursday of November, a day of Thanksgiving and acclaim to our valuable Father Who dwelleth in the sky. — A. Lincoln, 1863
What a pity that men who manage our legislature and men who significantly impact the ethical quality of our general public today don’t have the notions communicated by one of the best pioneers this country at any point created.
Give us a chance to be appreciative consistently, and particularly this period of the year. When we assemble as families on Thanksgiving Day, let us be really grateful for the generosity God has extravagantly spilled out on us.
The Bible is a closed book to many in the world today. However, the Bible makes it evident that we cannot please God without “the faith” (or system) that comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17; Jude 3). Why else would the Word of God be given, if man could save himself without hearing the Gospel? The Hebrew writer wrote, “But without faith [in the Truth, GC], it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God [in obedient faith, GC] must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Many today deny that God exists; rather, they say that man is god and should, therefore, live as he pleases instead of living as God pleases. Atheists, evolutionists, infidels, liberals, and free thinkers think that they have no reason to believe the Bible or that the God of Heaven exists. Of course, they are wrong and, furthermore, are without excuse. Paul wrote to the Roman brethren, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). His attributes are clearly understood by those things that are made! Only a fool can look at the world around us and deny that a great mind and a creator made them (Ps. 14:1). “For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God” (Heb. 3:4).
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The 53rd section of Isaiah has frequently been known as the “Agony Servant” entry. It is the fourth in a progression of entries managing “the Servant” or “the Servant of the Lord.” The gospel scholars recognize Jesus of Nazareth as satisfying these verses. From these sections in Isaiah we are given a perspective of His life and character in the times of His substance, His delicacy and in addition His energy, and the considerable deliverance He would bring, for the Jews, as well as for all the world.
Isaiah started his service around 740 B.C. furthermore, finished in 680 B.C. God, through Isaiah, gives us an unmistakable picture of what was to happen, in the prompt future for Israel, as well as how He would bring the Messiah, His “Affliction Servant,” into the world and enable Him to be relinquished for the wrongdoings of the world.
Sections 40 through 66 of Isaiah examine the Babylonian imprisonment and the purposes behind it, lastly the rebuilding from it. In any case, there would have been a more prominent deliverance than that from Babylon, and there would be a more prominent “savior” than Cyrus, the lord of Persia.
Isaiah 53 is one of the best-cherished sections of Scripture. It was this very entry that made the Ethiopian ask of Philip, “of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” (Acts 8:34). Philip started at Isaiah 53 and “lectured Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35).
We have to call attention to that the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 is presented before in the book of Isaiah, and is said in four separate areas of the book. In this article, we will inspect each of the four areas of Isaiah which manage the Suffering Servant.
The Servant Has A Mission
“See! My Servant whom I maintain, My Elect One in whom My spirit delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will deliver equity to the Gentiles. He won’t shout out, nor raise His voice, nor make His voice be heard in the road. A wounded reed He won’t break, and smoking flax He won’t extinguish; He will deliver equity for truth. He won’t fizzle nor be demoralized, Till He has set up equity in the earth; and the coastlands might sit tight for His law.” (Isa. 42:1-4).
Who is it that God maintains, picks, takes pleasure in and gives His Spirit to? A hireling! God rejects despots and overlords and picks a hireling! At the point when the Pharisees consulted Jesus with a specific end goal to devastate him, the hoards took after our Lord and He recuperated them. Matthew straightforwardly connected these verses to Christ, saying the healings were played out “that it may be satisfied which was talked by Isaiah the prophet” (Matt. 12:15-21).
We see in Isaiah 42:1 that the Servant was to be picked by God – not simply anybody could play out this assignment. God would get a kick out of this One. We review the expressions of the Father at the sanctification of Jesus, “This is My adored Son, in whom I am very much satisfied” (Matt. 3:17). Once more, at the transfiguration of Jesus, we hear the Father say, “This is My darling Son, in whom I am very much satisfied. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5).
One exhibition of the joy the Father would have in Him was the happening to the Holy Spirit upon His Servant. This was satisfied at the immersion of our Lord. John the Baptist gave testimony this and stated, “I saw the Spirit plummeting from paradise like a pigeon, and He stayed upon Him. I didn’t have any acquaintance with Him, however He who sent me to purify through water with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit diving, and staying on Him, this is He who sanctifies through water with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and affirmed this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34). Jesus Himself stated, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, since He has blessed Me to lecture the gospel to poor people. He has sent Me to recuperate the beaten down, to lecture deliverance to the prisoners and recuperation of sight to the visually impaired, to set at freedom the individuals who are mistreated, to lecture the satisfactory year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).
The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 42:2 stands in sharp diverge from common victors – His mien is not quite the same as that of conventional men. Jesus did not go into rough debate with false educators, but instead utilized the energy of words and reason. Indeed, even His foes needed to concede, “No man at any point talked like this Man” (John 7:46).
Christ would have feel sorry for on their low home (Isa. 42:3). Matthew reveals to us that when Jesus “saw the hoards, He was moved with sympathy for them, since they were fatigued and scattered, similar to sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). The Servant of the Lord would not smash men, nor extinguish their soul. He would not tie loads hard to tolerate (Matt. 23:4; Acts 15:5, 10). In perspective of these words we need to review the kind and delicate welcome of our Savior to delinquents (Matt. 11:28-30).
Isaiah 42:4 additionally contains a suggested trouble, i.e., the likelihood of the Suffering Servant becoming powerless (Isa. 42:4).
His main goal is to the “coastlands” or the “islands” (Isa. 42:4), “and in His name Gentiles will put stock in” (Matt. 12:21). The kingdom of Cyrus was constrained to one segment of the earth. The Law of Moses was for the country of Israel alone. The Suffering Servant would be of advantage to all humankind.
The Servant Has Great Difficulties In His Mission
“Tune in, O coastlands, to Me, and notice, you people groups from a remote place! The Lord has called Me from the womb; from the lattice of My mom He has talked about My name. What’s more, He has made My mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me, and made Me a cleaned shaft; in His quiver He has shrouded Me. What’s more, He said to me, ‘You are My hireling, O Israel, in whom I will be celebrated.’ Then I stated, ‘I have toiled futile, I have spent my quality to no end and futile; yet most likely my simply reward is with the Lord, and my work with my God.’ And now the Lord says, Who framed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to take Jacob back to Him, so Israel is assembled to Him (for I might be superb according to the Lord, and My God should be My quality), Indeed He says, ‘It is too little a thing that You ought to be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to reestablish the protected ones of Israel; I will likewise give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You ought to be My salvation to the finishes of the earth.’ Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One, to Him whom man detests, to Him whom the country hates, to the Servant of rulers: ‘Rulers might see and emerge, Princes additionally should venerate, as a result of the Lord who is loyal, the Holy One of Israel; and He has picked You.'” (Isa. 49:1-7).
The Servant is the speaker in these verses, yet He didn’t take this obligation upon Himself – the Lord called Him into this administration. Once more, the Gentiles are welcome to tune in (Isa. 49:1). The Lord knew His Servant from His mom’s womb – this guidelines out the likelihood of the Servant being the country of Israel.
The Servant was to “reestablish the protected ones of Israel” (Isa. 49:6). Saul of Tarsus who was among this exemplary leftover of Israel (Rom. 9:1-8; 11:1-5).
In satisfaction of the expressions of Isaiah, Christ turned into a light to the Gentiles. “The place that is known for Zebulun and the place that is known for Naphtali, the method for the ocean, past the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: the general population who sat in dimness saw an extraordinary light, and upon the individuals who sat in the area and shadow of death light has unfolded” (Matt. 4:15-16; cf. Isa. 9:1-2). After Paul had been dismisses by the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, he stated, “It was vital that the expression of God ought to be addressed you first; however since you dismiss it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, view, we swing to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).
Jesus told the Syro-Phoenician lady that He had been sent to the “lost sheep of the place of Israel” (Matt. 15:22-24). At the point when the pupils were conveyed on the Limited Commission they were advised not to go to the Gentiles (Matt. 10:5-6). In any case, in the Great Commission the missionaries were sent to all countries of the earth (Matt. 28:19).
The Servant Will Suffer
“The Lord God has given Me The tongue of the realized, that I ought to know how to talk a word in season to him who is tired. He stirs Me morning by morning, He stirs My ear to hear as the educated. The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not insubordinate, nor did I dismiss. I gave My back to the individuals who struck Me, and My cheeks to the individuals who culled out the whiskers; I didn’t conceal My face from disgrace and spitting. For the Lord God will help Me; along these lines I won’t be disrespected; in this way I have set My face like a stone, and I realize that I won’t be embarrassed. He is close who legitimizes Me; Who will fight with Me? Give us a chance to stand together. Who is My enemy? Give him a chance to draw close to Me. Without a doubt the Lord God will help Me; who is he who will denounce Me? In fact they will all develop old like a piece of clothing; the moth will gobble them up.” (Isa. 50:4-9).
The particular predictions of Isaiah 50:4-9 were satisfied by Christ when Pilate “conveyed Him to be killed” (Matt. 27:26).
Hirelings of God have dependably experienced issues satisfying their main goal. The Suffering Servant would not escape from His work as Jonah did (Isa. 50:5; Jonah 1:3). We hear our Lord tell those in the primary century, “Favored are the individuals who are mistreated for nobility’s purpose, For theirs is the kingdom of paradise. Favored are you when they censure and mistreat you, and say a wide range of malice against you dishonestly for My purpose. Cheer and be exceedingly happy, for incredible is your reward in paradise, for so they aggrieved the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:10-12).
The striking dialect of Isaiah 50:6 brings to mind the anguish of our Lord before His excursion to the cross, where His back was given to the smiters and where evil men culled the facial hair from off His face (Matt. 26:67-68; 27:26-31).
On the Sunday before His death on the cross, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem. Great multitudes of people took palm branches and went out to meet Him, while crying out “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The king of Israel!” (John 12:12-13). In order to fully understand this passage, we must realize how excited the crowd was. They had come to Jerusalem for the Passover, and along the way had heard about Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
National feelings were always high during Jewish feast days. On this occasion the crowds were like dry kindling, ready to blaze up, and Lazarus was a match. The Jewish rulers had already decided to kill Lazarus “because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus” (John 12:11).
“At such a time Jerusalem and the villages round about were crowded. On one occasion a census was taken of the lambs slain at the Passover Feast. The number was given as 256,000. There had to be a minimum of ten people per lamb; and if that estimate is correct it means that there must have been as many as 2,700,000 people at that Passover Feast.” (William Barclay, Commentary on John, p. 115).
Try to picture in your mind the Jews streaming into Bethany to gaze at a risen man and the Messiah they had longed for (John 12:9).
As the jubilant crowds welcomed Christ into the city, they waved palm branches — a symbol of victory and rejoicing. The crowds also shouted, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of Jehovah,” a chant taken from Psalms 118:26. In that Psalm the phrase, “he that cometh in the name of Jehovah” meant the worshipper drawing near the temple. The added the words, “King of Israel,” diverted the expression to Jesus. “Hosanna” is from a Hebrew word which means “save we pray.”
William Barclay said of this Psalm: “Further, this was characteristically the conqueror’s psalm. To take but one instance, these very verses were sung and shouted by the Jerusalem crowd when the welcomed back Simon Maccabaeus after he had conquered Acra and wrested it from Syrian dominion more than a hundred years before. There is no doubt that when the people sang this psalm they were looking on Jesus as God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, the Deliverer, the One who was to come. And there is no doubt that they were looking on him as the Conqueror. To them it must have been only a matter of time until the trumpets rang out and call to arms sounded and the Jewish nation swept to its long delayed victory over Rome and the world. Jesus approached Jerusalem with the shout of the mob hailing a conqueror in his ears — and it must have hurt him, for they were looking in him for that very thing which he refused to be.” (Commentary on John, p. 117).
Earlier in His ministry Jesus had pulled back from the crowds and on one occasion “when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to a mountain by Himself alone” (John 6:15). He had sought every possible way to avoid publicity (John 5:13; Mark 3:1-12; Mark 5:35-43; Mark 9:2-9). Now, Jesus deliberately sets Himself to intensify the excitement of the crowd.
Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, which was a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech. 9:9).
The scene presents an interesting contrast between Jesus and the Zealots. The Zealots were ready for a hand to hand fight with Rome, while Jesus chose a slow paced donkey to bear Him into the city.
“With us the ass is lowly and despised; but in the East it was a noble animal. Jair, the Judge, had thirty sons who rode on asses’ colts (Judges 10:4). Ahithopel rode upon an ass (2 Samuel 17:23). Mephi-bosheth, the royal prince, the son of Saul, came to David riding upon an ass (2 Samuel 19:26). The point is that a king came riding upon a horse when he was bent on war; he came riding upon an ass when he was coming in peace. This action of Jesus is a sign that he was not the warrior figure men dreamed of, but the Prince of Peace. No one saw it that way at that time, not even the disciples, who should have known so much better. The minds of all were filled with a kind of mob hysteria. Here was the one who was to come. But they looked for the Messiah of their own dreams and their own wishful thinking; they did not look for the Messiah whom God had sent. Jesus drew a dramatic picture of what he claimed to be, but none understood the claim.” (William Barclay, Commentary on John, p. 118).
To help us further appreciate our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, let us notice how a victorious Roman general would receive an official “triumph” parade upon his return to Rome. “Only those were eligible for it who had won a campaign in which 5000 of the enemy had been slain; the unfortunate commander who had won with less slaughter received merely an ovation — for him no ox was sacrificed, but only a sheep (ovis). The procession formed outside the city, at whose borders the general and his troops were required to lay down their arms; thence it entered through a triumphal arch that set a fashion for a thousand monuments. Trumpeters led the march; after them came towers or floats representing the captured cities, and pictures showing the exploits of the victors; then wagons rumbled by, heavy with gold, silver, works of art, and other spoils. Marcellus’ triumph was memorable for the stolen statuary of Syracuse (212); Scipio Africanus in 207 displayed 14,000 and, in 202, 123,000 pounds of silver taken from Spain and Carthage. Seventy white oxen followed, walking philosophically to their death; then the captured chiefs of the enemy; then lictors, harpers, pipers, and incense-bearers; then, in a flamboyant chariot, the general himself, wearing a purple toga and a crown of gold, and bearing an ivory scepter and a laurel branch as emblems of victory and the insignia of Jove. In the chariot with him might be his children; beside it rode his relatives; behind them his secretaries and aides. Last came the soldiers, some carrying the prizes awarded them, every one wearing a crown; some praising their leaders, others deriding them; for it was an inviolable tradition that on these brief occasions the speech of the army should be free and unpunished, to remind the proud victors of their fallible mortality. The general mounted the Capitol to the Temple of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, laid his loot at the feet of the gods, presented an animal in sacrifice, and usually ordered the captive chieftains to be slain as an additional thank-offering. It was a ceremony well designed to stir military ambition and reward military effort; for man’s vanity yields only to hunger and love.” (Will Durant, Caesar And Christ, pp. 82-83).
Brother J. W. McGarvey observed: “It has been the custom of all lands to bestrew in some manner the pathway of those who are thought worthy of the highest honor. When Lafayette visited our fathers after the Revolution the roads over which he approached our cities were strewn with flowers. Thus over flowers Alexander entered Babylon, and Xerxes crossed the bridge of Hellespont over a myrtle-strewn pathway. Monier tells of a Persian ruler who in modern times made his honored progress over a road covered for three miles with roses. But it is more natural to contrast the entry of Jesus with the Roman triumphs so popular in that day. The wealth of conquered kingdoms was expended to insure their magnificence. We find none of that tinsel and specious glitter in the triumph of Christ. No hired multitudes applaud him; no gold-braided banners wave in his honor. There is nothing here but the lusty, honest shout of the common people, and the swaying of the God-made banners of the royal palms. The rich in purse, the learned in schoolcraft and the high in office were, as usual, not there.” (The Fourfold Gospel, pp. 576-577).
The entry of Christ into the city of Jerusalem was not only a literal fulfillment of prophecy, but it was a demonstration of the nature of His kingdom (John 18:36). The Prince of Peace entered the city of David while riding upon a donkey, not upon a horse as if ready for war.
A few days after His entry into Jerusalem, the tide of public opinion would turn against Christ. Our Savior knew this would happen, for on the day of His entry into Jerusalem He said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32). John tells us that Jesus said these words “signifying by what death He would die” (John 12:33).
Some of the same people who had cut down palm branches to welcome the Son of God into their city would soon stand in front of Pilate’s judgment hall and cry out for the death of the Lamb of God.
The apostle John records the scene as Pilate presents the innocent Jesus to a stirred-up Jewish mob. “Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ But they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ So he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.” (John 19:14-16).
The book of Deuteronomy contains many warnings and admonitions for the people of God as they are about to enter the land of Canaan. The eighteenth chapter of the book contains a remarkable passage regarding the origin of the prophetic institution. God was going to raise up a body of men and put His word in their mouth (Deut. 18:9-22).
The Levites were the appointed teachers of the Law. However, in the promised land there would be new circumstances which would require further revelation from God. Canaan was a land filled with superstition — they claimed detailed knowledge of the future, but their sources were declared abominations by God, so Jehovah promised to raise up prophets to make known His will. In this article we will notice the superstitions employed by the Canaanites during the time of Moses (as described in Deut. 18:10-12), and then see how Christ was “the Prophet” God would raise up.
Superstitions Of The Canaanites
The first superstition of the Canaanites mentioned by Moses was febration — the practice of one making “his son or his daughter pass through the fire” (Deut. 18:10). The purpose of febration was to obtain an oracle, or to avert national disaster (cf. Deut. 12:29-31). This practice was common among the worshipers of Moloch, the national deity of Ammonites (Lev. 18:21). This abomination caused God to root out the Canaanites (Lev. 18:24-30).
“To Baal-Haman, in great crises, living children were sacrificed, as many as three hundred in a day. They were placed upon the inclined and outstretched arms of the idol and rolled off into the fire beneath; their cries were drowned in the noise of trumpets and cymbals; their mothers were required to look upon the scene without moan or tear, lest they be accused of impiety and lose the credit due them from the god.” (Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, p. 42).
The next three terms used by Moses describe various methods of divination, including “one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens.” God wanted His people to know these practices were powerless against His people, as expressed in Numbers 23:23, “For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor is there any divination against Israel.” No soothsayer has any power against Israel, for Israel receives her information from the Lord.
Moses also mentions two other classes of divination, “a sorcerer, or one who conjures a spell,” followed by two groups who seek after the dead, “a medium, or a spiritist.” Manasseh reinstituted many of these crimes when he was King in Judah (2 Kings 21:1-6). “Although these two words, ‘ghost’ and ‘familiar spirit’ are used side by side, there was nevertheless a distinction between them. The person who was possessed of an ob (ghost) was evidently a ventriloquist. Like the witch at Endor he might call up the ob and describe what he saw. Those about him would probably hear only a muttering or twittering which seemed to come from the ground. The ‘familiar spirit’ however, was evidently a spirit that was at the beck and call of a particular person.” (Edward J. Young, My Servants The Prophets, p. 23).
“One who calls up the dead” is a comprehensive term which covers all forms of spiritualism.
“The context refers to sorcery, divination, spiritism, and other similar practices. Excavations at different sites have uncovered a great number of figurines, charms, amulets, and other objects connected with sorcery, fertility cults, demon exorcism, and pagan superstitions that at times propagated themselves in Israel to such an extent that legislators, prophets, and some rulers had frequently to warn the people against them.” (Gonzalo Baez-Camargo, Archaeological Commentary On The Bible, p. 55).
“The list is indeed impressive. These superstitious practices which were so much in vogue among the Canaanites of ancient time are the reason why the Lord will dispossess these people of their land. Moses then advances a step. Not only are these practices in themselves abominations, he says, but also every one that doeth them is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. It is for this reason that God will drive out the Canaanites from their land. It is well that we should grasp this fact, for it has sometimes been maintained that the God of the Old Testament was an arbitrary despot, who drove out the Canaanites and brought Israel into Palestine, and this, it has been said, was a cruel, arbitrary act. Such a judgment, however, is unjust, and out of accord with the facts. God, in dispossessing the Canaanites, was doing a gracious and merciful thing to the remainder of the world. The Canaanites, through their abominations, had themselves become abominations. If there was to be any salvation for the world, Canaan must go. The cup of their iniquity had filled, and they could no longer be permitted to exist as heretofore. Let no one, then, charge God with lack of justice in His treatment of Canaan.” (Edward Young, p. 24).
In spite of all of the means of divination used by her neighbors, Israel would not have to resort to such means, for God would raise up a Prophet “from your midst, from your brethren” (Deut. 18:15). Therefore, there would be no reason for Israel to turn to heathen soothsayers. God was going to raise up a body of prophets to declare His words, and later He would raise up one great Prophet, who alone could compare to Moses.
Christ Is God’s Final Prophet
The New Testament often speaks of Christ as “the Prophet,” a reference back to the promise given by God to Moses in Deuteronomy 18.
As John opens his account of the life of Christ he tells of the work of John the Baptist. On one occasion priests and Levites from Jerusalem went to John and inquired as to whether or not he was the Christ (John 1:19-23). When John denied being the long-awaited Messiah the priests and Levites then asked if he was Elijah, to which John answered “I am not.” They then asked, “Are you the Prophet?” They wanted to know if John was “the Prophet” Moses had promised centuries before — the answer was “No.”
It was in the region of the Sea of Galilee that Jesus fed the 5,000 with “five barley loaves and two small fish” (John 6:1-14). When the people had been fed and there was still bread to spare, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, who is come into the world” (John 6:14).
On one occasion Jesus healed a lame man at the Pool of Bethesda. “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). Jesus told these Jews, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). There are many Old Testament passages which speak of Christ, but the one He had in mind on this occasion was found in the writings of Moses. Jesus said, “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you — Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:45-47).
What did Moses say about Christ? God told Moses, “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.” (Deut. 18:18-19). This passage was speaking of Christ, for Peter quoted it in Acts 3:22-23 and applied it to Him. Stephen quoted this same passage in the sermon which cost him his life (Acts 7:37).
On the Mount of Transfiguration our Lord stood with Moses and Elijah and discussed His impending death. Peter, overwhelmed in the moment, said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matt. 17:4). However, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!'” (Matt. 17:5). The point is clear: as great as Moses and Elijah were in their won right, we are to listen to God’s Son today!
Jesus is God’s final spokesman. The Hebrew writer reminds us of how “God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…” (Heb. 1:1-2).
Concerning “the Prophet” who was to come, God said, “whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him” (Deut. 18:19). The Hebrew writer mentions the consequences of neglecting the message of Christ. “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Heb. 2:1-4).
Have you listened to the words of Christ, God’s final spokesman? If you reject the message of Christ, you will have rejected your only means of eternal salvation!
Modern premillennial theory insists God had not anticipated the rejection of Jesus by the Jews. They often think that God was shocked when Jesus “came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). They also teach that one day Christ will return to this earth and the Jews will then accept Him as their Messiah. The Bible teaches that the Father in heaven knew all along how the Jews would react to His Son Jesus. God had planned the time perfectly and “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4).
Have you ever considered what would have happened if the Jews had accepted Jesus as their Savior and King? Let’s look at the consequences:
First, there would have been no crucifixion, and hence no shedding of blood. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). However, Jesus spent His entire earthly life preparing for the cross. “‘And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.’ This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” (John 12:23-33).
Second, since there would have been no shedding of blood, there could be no remission of sins. “And according to the law almost all things are purged with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). On the night in which He was betrayed, as He instituted the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:28).
Third, the church would have never been established, since it was purchased with the precious blood of Christ. When Paul addressed the elders from Ephesus, he admonished them “to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). The church is composed of saved people. In the New Testament, “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
Fourth, if the Jews had accepted Christ as their Messiah, there would be no gospel, since the foundation of it is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:3-4). This “message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
Premillennialists usually have very little use for the gospel of Christ — they look upon it with contempt, however, “it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (1 Cor. 1:21). Do you believe in the power of the gospel?
Bless the Congregational Lectureships
We acknowledge the passing of time in noting that one day, some will be writing a history of the church of our day, and they’ll be looking back into “old history.” When that “old history” is written, focusing on the church of our time, surely there will be a great deal of praise for the congregational lectureships we now see. In view of the drift away from fundamental Bible truths in our day, and in the concern that many had for the future state of the kingdom, congregations in various parts of the nation began to hold their annual lecture series. I do not believe I am overstating the case in venturing that the truths brought forth in these lectureships has been the saving of the church from apostasy – that part of the church that could, and would, be warned.
Lest someone jump with the accusation that I said that the credit should be given congregations, and men, I hasten to point out again that I said the TRUTHS – truths of God – there proclaimed have been the church’s salvation. We now mention two or three things along that line:
(1) The lectureships have meant much in informing the memberships, locally. Growth comes through the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2), and if God’s people are to know and grow, and become all that God would have them be, knowledge must dispel ignorance (Hosea 4:6). I have never attended any sessions, in any of our lectureships, without having gained some Bible knowledge.
(2) The lectureships have meant much in informing brethren far from the hosting congregation. They come from near and far, and that same information given to the benefit of the local church is then through those attending, taken home to benefit many congregations. Through the printed word, and then through audio and video cassettes, the messages are sent throughout the land and abroad. The hosting congregations know that they have “sounded out the word of the Lord” to distant places (1 Thessalonians 1:8).
(3) The lectureships have meant much in the warnings given. There is the Biblical focus on the times in which the Bible’s books were written, but also a focus on the problems, trials, afflictions of our own day. Various movements, from Crossroads/Boston, to the efforts to merge with the Christian Church, to the issue of abortion, to the attempts to introduce the mechanical instrument into worship, etc. are dealt with, giving a “thus saith the Lord,” and brethren are warned of dangers. The lectureships have served to wake some up from their spiritual sleep, and have, through the truths presented, served to thus forewarn and forearm the saints as to the fight that will be brought to their congregational doorsteps.
(4) The lectureships have meant much in the warnings given, especially, to elders in the church. There is no more direct benefit, that can be realized in any quicker fashion, than to have the eldership informed and warned – if they then will take care of their duties. They are charged with feeding (Acts 20:28) and watching over (Hebrews 13:17) the flock of God. They, of all people, should be informed and thus warned. No congregation ever spends any better money than in providing the expense, if it is needed, for its elders to attend these lectureships. In so many cases, no money would be needed, but the congregation should be encouraging its elders to take advantage of these opportunities.
(5) Also, we dare not forget the preachers. The lectureships have meant much to them, again in informing and warning, but also in providing encouragement. Those who are young, and perhaps in their first works, need such encouragement, and it is wonderful to hear how problems and situations were dealt with successfully, and it is of great aid to these younger men. They need the association with those who are older and more experienced, and the value of such is beyond calculation. Congregations and elders, encourage and assist these young men in their endeavors to be informed and thus of greater service in the kingdom!
Those are some of the benefits we think of as we view the congregational lectureships now underway. Many can look back and ask, “When would I have known of this problem, or how to handle this particular issue, if I had not been given the material at these lectures?” Naturally, I run the risk of some stating, “Well, he is ‘high’ on them because Southwest has a lectureship, and naturally he would promote them!” If such is said, we’ll endure that, but we will point to the items above, (1) through (5), and know that these cannot be denied. These were true, and I realized them, long, long before the first Southwest lectureship. And, if the Southwest lectures were to be closed down tomorrow, the points would still be true concerning all other faithful lectures. Again, these events have brought forth truths to the saving of the kingdom in our time!
CHRISTIAN WORKER, October, 1989
The Fruit of Benevolence
Inspiration informs us that our Lord came to this earth to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The Son of God “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mat. 20:28); and, as a result, He purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Those who believe (John 8:24), repent (Luke 13:3), confess the name of Christ (Rom. 10:9-10), and are willing to be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) are added to the blood bought church of the saved (Acts 2:47). No one can be saved unless they have been obedient to the gospel plan of salvation. Christ came to this earth and suffered because He does not wish “that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). It is easy to see that Jesus’ main focus in life was the saving of souls.
My friends, this is the main work of the church today! We must be about our Father’s business (Luke 2:49), as was our Lord. Everything we do as a body of Christians should be centered around this important task of saving souls. The work of saving souls is accomplished through three main avenues: 1) the preaching of the gospel (Mat. 28:19; Rom. 10:13-14), 2) edifying one another (Eph. 4:11-12), and 3) benevolence work (Gal. 2:10; 1 Tim. 6:17-19). How can benevolence work be used to lead souls to Christ? Let me give you an example.
In 1975, Ben and Beverly Phillips moved to Ketchikan, Alaska looking for work to support their large family. At this point in their life they had no concern for religion and no future plans for such – both had a background in denominational churches. Their only concern was the physical – the here and now, but their lives were soon to change drastically. The trailer house in which they lived caught fire and was totally consumed in only a few moments. Luckily, they were able to get out of the trailer with no loss of life – but while doing so they lost everything they owned. The fire so quickly came upon them that some of them had to run out of the trailer without shoes or shirt. There they stood watching their life burn away – they wondered how they would survive.
Luckily for the Phillips family, the church of Christ in Ketchikan was benevolence-minded, and quickly came to their aid. Above the church building in Ketchikan was an apartment that the local preacher had used in times past. The brethren quickly furnished the apartment for them, and provided them with food and clothing. As I talked to Ben and Beverly about this time in their life, they were deeply touched by the benevolent outpouring of the Christians in this small town. One of the things that greatly impressed them was that the good people did not give their leftovers, but gave Ben and Beverly their best. The church in Ketchikan required nothing of the Phillips family – but were simply there to help.
On Sundays when the Christians in Ketchikan came to worship, Ben and Beverly stayed upstairs and would not come down for worship. Ben and Beverly were invited to attend, but chose not to. The brethren there still helped the Phillips family all they could – they knew to do “good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). As Ben and Beverly continued to see the outpouring of benevolence from these wonderful Christians their hearts began to soften. Soon they begin to attend worship, and later agreed to study the Bible with the local preacher. Before long, Ben and Beverly obeyed the gospel and became New Testament Christians. Ben and Beverly told me that had it not been for the benevolent outpouring of the church they might never have become Christians. Today, Ben serves faithfully as an elder in the Lord’s church in Malvern, Arkansas, and his wife Beverly is a hard working, faithful member in the church. To this very day, Ben and Beverly get “teary eyed” as they speak of this benevolence-minded group of God’s people. They said that the Christians in Ketchikan set a standard of benevolent Christian love that they will always strive to emulate. Beloved, benevolence can be used to soften the heart of man – allowing them to see their need for the gospel of Christ. Most will not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
This is why the New Testament instructs, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need” (Eph. 4:28). Paul says, “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10). “Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed” (1 Tim. 6:17-19). How benevolence-minded are you as you seek to save the lost?
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